Windows on a Mac…Not the Microsoft Kind

windows-on-mac-header

Ok ok, the title may be a little mis-leading but what’s the harm in trying to drive a little Google search traffic? The windows that I am referring to are the Final Cut Pro kind, not the Microsoft kind. I’ve always made a big case for workflow and editing efficiency here and no detail is too small when it comes to working smoothly. In fact, I’ve found that it’s often the little things that help the most when they are streamlined or annoy the most when they are clunky and rigid. If you never take the time to experiment and rearrange your FCP window layout and button bar arrangements you’re probably missing out on workflow efficiency gains. Here is my window layout and button bar arrangement and why I have things the way they are.

The first thing you’ll notice is that my window arrangement isn’t all that different from the default standard FCP window layout. All I have done is to move a few windows around, resize them, and add an area that contains some additional tools.

My Standard Window Layout
My Standard Window Layout

Let’s move from left to right. The most prominent window on my screen is the Browser window. Rarely is there a project that I edit where there are fewer than 100 clips and other items in my browser. One of my biggest time wasters is scrolling up and down back and fourth through windows. I like to be able to see as many of my browser items as possible all at once. By making my browser the full height of the screen I can maximize my viewable clips and minimize scrolling. Also since the item names are often short the browser doesn’t need to be long horizontally therefor leaving me plenty of room for everything else.

My Very Tall Browser Window
My Very Tall Browser Window

At this point I should specify that I use an Apple 23″ display. If you use a bigger or smaller size, or 2 displays, the best solution for you may be different. For instance, when I used 2 displays I always made one entire display the browser window. Also depending on the arrangement of you desk you may want to flip flop these windows and have the browser on the right if that suits your taste better.

Moving on, the balance I have struck between my timeline, viewer, and canvas windows has to do with my preference for external monitoring. I rely heavily on my external monitor to judge my edits, color, and composites. Because of this I feel that my viewer and canvas windows can be on the small side and give that extra space to my timeline. Just like with my browser I want to be able to see as much of my timeline as possible all at once and minimize scrolling and zooming.

My Rather Small-ish Viewer and Canvas
My Rather Small-ish Viewer and Canvas
A Big-ish Timeline
A Big-ish Timeline

The last bit of space is occupied by the tool bench that contains the frame viewer, scopes, and audio mixer. In the course of an edit I always follow a pattern to come to the final piece. I make several passes through the video to arrive at the final and rarely co-mingle tasks from different passes. For example, I make an A-roll pass then a B-roll pass, then an audio pass, a color correction pass and so on. Since I usually use the scopes and audio mixer in very segmented passes I don’t need them to both be available at the same time. I can switch to one and leave it there while I’m working with it then switch again when I’m done.

Alas - The Toolbench
Alas - The Toolbench

My button bars are based on a little simpler philosophy. I pretty much choose to add buttons that I use the function of often but simply never memorized the key commands to or that had awkward key commands like Shift-Option-Backslash. I’ve pretty much filled up my custom keyboard with all of the most common commands I use and there are really no more simple commands left to map these functions to, so I made buttons. Of course I placed the buttons in the appropriate windows that the function effects. I won’t go through ever one but I’ll name a few.

First, in the timeline I have Export and Export using Quicktime Conversion. I use these functions several times a day and since they’re usually used as a final step and not a editing function I felt that a button would be best. One simple click and my sequence is output. Others are the pan audio left right and center and toggle stereo pair. I use these often and finding them in the menus is usually tedious. I can quickly and easily click em while mixing audio on the fly. My browser has a Set Logging Bin button and a close project button, all come in handy from time to time.

My Various Timeline Related Buttons
My Various Timeline Related Buttons
A few Straggling Browser Buttons
A few Straggling Browser Buttons

I should also point out that I tend to use both the buttons, menus, and key commands for all of these functions. It usually depends on where my brain is at while I’m furiously editing and trying to meet a deadline. I may be chugging along and all of a sudden completely blank on the key command for I have mapped for Close Gap, well, never fear because the button is right there waiting to be clicked. I think it’s pretty safe to say that clicking buttons is faster than drilling down into the menu bar.

I’ve experimented with lots and lots of deferent window layouts and button bars over the years and am really glad that I finally came up with these. The window layout maximizes the viewable area of important items and minimizes areas that are less important. Depending on your screen size and desk arrangement you’ll probably want to make a few tweaks, but just trust that by using a default arrangement you are probably missing out on some valuable efficiency. My button bars make up for what could be considered a bit of laziness in not learning certain key commands but also serve as a valuable backup when I just can’t remember them either.

The SuiteTake Take:
There’s a lot of nifty little features all over FCP like these and they’re there for a reason, to make you a better editor. You should definitely take advantage of them.

1 thought on “Windows on a Mac…Not the Microsoft Kind

  1. Your window layout is really similar to mine. only difference is that I overlap my timeline and cover the playback/mark buttons of the viewer and browser since I don't use them to give my timeline more vertical space.

    Just a side note on searching through drop down menus.

    In Leopard, if you hit command shift /
    you'll invoke a search bar that allows you to search through all the drop down menu commands, including your effects and plugins.

    Very useful.

    Cheers
    Dustin Lau
    Singapore

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.